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Your Friend, Wilson

Wilson was an experimental bot which proactively delivered the coolest, most unique things to do in their area. First conceptualized as a robust recommendation app with SMS capabilities, our MVP was an SMS bot which we then iterated to a Facebook Messenger bot. 


As the Director of Design at Bindle Chat, I worked with our CEO on everything product, branding and experience. I also worked with our engineering team to develop the backend system that would do exactly what we needed. I concepted and produced all the assets, including most of the messaging and language.

Wilson Conception

The idea for Wilson was created out of need for curated experiences, and the desire for someone to just "do it for you." We wanted Wilson to be your trusted side-kick who gave you heads up on everything in your life, from actionable weather alerts to scheduling dinner with friends to giving you the inside scoop on a little know, but totally cool event happening next weekend.

The app would collect information about you, like where you lived and what you liked to do, and then Wilson would proactively text message you with just enough info at the exact right moments.

Flow Diagram of initial app concept


Onboarding flow

exploring within the app

example recommendation cards

Example of full interaction

Once you opt into a dinner recommendation on the app or via a text message, Wilson adds it to your calendar, sends out a message to your group (where they can also choose to opt in or out), and then makes the reservation for however many friends opt in. After the event date, Wilson follows up to see if you followed through. At that time, Wilson will learn more about the tastes and preferences of you and your friend group.

Tap to expand

Wilson as an SMS Bot

After playing around with some app prototypes, we discovered that people, including ourselves, wanted to live exciting lives full of unique experiences but didn't have the wherewithal to dig through apps and websites that basically served as a dumping ground of everything going on with no curation. Furthermore, figuring out the logistics of an event was often cited as a barrier to going.

Because of that finding, we decided that the best place to start with an MVP was the text portion of the app. Our first live version of Wilson was an SMS bot. You signed up with your phone number, opted into texts, and Wilson would send out 2-4 messages per week with interesting things to do at night and on the weekends in your area. 

(Right: the landing page for Wilson text bot. Below: example text messages sent by Wilson.)

Sample SMS texts

Sample SMS texts

EXperimenting with MESSAGE assets

In order to send a lot of information in one message, without creating a wall of text, we experimented with animated gifs. We wanted them to be eye catching and playful, meant to look like a story you might see on snapchat.

The first versions of assets were more editorial. For the GIF slideshows, followup messages with more info were sent based on keyword responses.

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Subsequent iterations were produced to look more like a Snap or Instagram story. We wanted them to feel personal, fun, current, and (most importantly) curated with our users in mind.



Wilson as a Facebook Messenger Bot

After proving the initial concept of Wilson as a text bot, we started building Wilson as a Facebook Messenger bot. This allowed us to build out more robust features quickly (like setting preferences, finding perks, and sharing with friends) while maintaining the easy-going, "just a friend" vibe that text messages allowed. 


Example messenger experience

Sharing with friends

We prototyped the sharing events with friends experience. Below is an example of sharing from Wilson to friends.

Below is an example of a chat with a friend who shared an event from Wilson to you.

updated landing page


Wilson Expansion

After the initial test of Wilson in San Francisco, we expanded to New York. The response was positive and after being featured on Product Hunt, we got a lot of requests for new cities. We decided to design a contest to see where the most potential users were and if it was viable to expand at that time.


final thoughts 

Building Wilson was a very excited process. It was the most "Lean Startup" experience I've ever been a part of, focusing on launching a very literal MVP, listening to feedback and our own take-aways, and changing and iterating in real time. It often lead us into wildly new directions and some great ideas ended up on the cutting room floor. 

During this process, I also got to stretch a lot of muscles I'm not used to flexing, like branding, writing messages and curating content, running social media, and even customer support.

While Wilson was starting to gain more traction and we had a lot of new product ideas, we ultimately decided to close down Wilson and focus on other projects.